Keep Showing Up

Not a lot of people know who I am, in a literal sense. Sure, you may have heard my name bounce around news from time to time and you may think you know me, but my outer shell is pretty thick and I don’t open up myself to others easily. The man I am is only known by those closest to me, and those closest to me know that October 20th, 2019 was going to happen as early as 6 years ago, because I literally told them and then got to work.

First off, yea it happened. And it’s crazy. And so awesome. And the gravity of it is… well I’m still trying to figure out how big that moment was. It took 43 years for the first Canadian to go under 2:10 and now there are two guys within 1 year to have done it.

All those years ago, I made it my life’s mission to get to this point. There have been some ‘holy shit’ moments in the past to indicate the best is yet to come. The public has only seen the tip of the iceberg, the successful moments and wins. Between those moments was A LOT of struggle, sacrifice, tears, uncertainty, and hope that there will be more wins in the future. Other athletes share this and can relate. It can wear on an individual to put in the work, knowing you’re capable of more, and not see the results you expect. But after every moment, continue to show up and grind and show up and grind and cry and grind and show up until that day, that one day when the door you have been kicking at finally falls down.

I have not had many performances to indicate a 2:09 is what I am capable of because those opportunities to showcase my abilities didn’t pan out. I barely ran track through High School and College because I don’t like running on a track. The 29:24 road 10K is good, the 1:04:28 half is good, but they don’t point towards 2:09. So here’s a breakdown of how the past year and a half COULD have looked:

Spring 2018. I trained in Kenya for a month and was fit. A grade 2 ankle sprain cut the trip short and I travelled back to Canada for treatment. A couple weeks later, the ankle still bothered me and stomach stitches left me limping across the line at the NYC Half Marathon. A couple weeks later, I called it on the training block and withdrew from the Prague Marathon. That was going to be a progression from 2:18.

Autumn 2018. Had a very good training block leading up to the Monterey Bay Half Marathon. Ran 29:24 at the Eastside 10K and 1:05:18 at the Victoria Half off little rest during the training cycle. The race was cancelled due to wildfire smoke. I was ready to run 1:02, a progression from 1:04.

Spring 2019. Battled some illness and couldn’t get a consistent build together. Still ran 2:16 in Hamburg but the goal was for 2:13. Say 2:16 in Prague, 1:02 in Monterey, then 2:13 in Hamburg. 2:09 doesn’t look as big of a jump anymore.

In a perfect world, all these goals would have been achieved and this story would have been a bit more complete, but the world doesn’t work like that and ‘could have’s’,’ should have’s’ and ‘if only’s’ don’t count.

This is my bro, Evan Esselink, and I warming up for the Marathon. Credit to Jody Bailey for the pic.

The training build going into Toronto 2019 was perfect. The wildfire smoke that Calgary dealt with in 2018 was non-existent this year, I cut a lot of simple carbs from my diet and replaced them with complex carbs, I completed a 17-week purposeful training cycle that had included 9 runs at 38-40KM over a 13-week period, all workouts were completed to their full intention, and every single day, I believed in my abilities to produce a result that would earn a spot on the Olympic Team. To add to this, the race day in Toronto was perfect. All the stars aligned. I did my absolute best. 2:09 is the result of that.

Alan Brookes and Athletics Canada gave us an opportunity on Sunday to earn a spot on the team. I wanted that spot, worked towards it, and earned it. Give a motivated man an opportunity and watch the magic happen. I don’t care how fast the standards are or how hard they may see. Put in the work, think beyond what you are capable of and give it an honest effort.

Regarding sponsorship… yes, New Balance and I have parted ways. They have been unimaginably supportive over the past three years to get me to this point and I can’t thank them enough for their support. Don’t knock NB, there are some really solid individuals behind the brand name that go above and beyond to support the running community at a grassroots level.

My family, friends, the Alberta running community, the Bow Valley Harriers group and employer (Strides Running Store) have supported every step along this journey so far. They are my backbone. Richard and Katrina at LifeMark Physiotherapy – South Train Crossing are the constant pain in my lower back, glutes, hamstrings and calves. They have kept me healthy and strong. All my past teammates and coaches at Bishop O’Byrne High School, SAIT Polytechnic and Speed River helped guide me in the right direction. The Calgary Spartans have helped improve my training situation and have provided resources to ensure this past year ended with a successful result. I am forever grateful for all the love and support.

2:09 is a good step, but there’s more work to be done and the job is still a work in progress.